The challenge of managing the intersection of people, processes, and information is not a new one. However, the technologies and the timeframes that we use to manage this intersection change, and we are currently in the middle of a phase of high disruption and uncertainty.
There have been five main eras in managing the people, process, and information intersection.
The paper era
For hundreds of years, the technology that fueled the intersection of people, processes and information was paper.
The micrographics era
During the 1950s, paper began to be replaced – especially for the task of documenting and recording – by microfilm and the Micrographics Industry was born. But, paper still remained the primary technology tied to the unstructured information in a business process.
The ERP era
In the 1960s, 1970s and into 80s, the first great wave of enterprise IT spending replaced ledgers with data, automated a significant portion of core back-end business processes, and gave birth to the ERP Industry. Amidst this automation, paper still retained its dominant role — it remained the primary means to convey information and was the primary way that business was documented on a daily basis.
The document management and workflow era
In the 1980s and 1990s, we replaced some of this paper – mostly the high-volume kind – in selected, mission-critical processes (like new drug applications in pharmaceuticals or claims processing in insurance). We used closed local area networks to move these new electronic documents around among a limited number of specialised workers within the four walls of the enterprise. Document Management/Workflow emerged as the label we used to describe this era of people, processes and information.
> See also: Can Box really disrupt the ECM market?
The ECM era
The emergence of the internet and the maturation of core document management and imaging technologies ushered in the Enterprise Content Management (ECM) era in the early 2000s. Never a perfect industry label – and probably more accurately a verb (something you do) than a noun (something you buy) – EMA nonetheless served as a useful umbrella term for a decade. ECM described a cluster of capabilities and technologies that organisations used to capture, store, manage, deliver, and preserve the 'content' (mostly images and documents) associated with processes that were 1) document intensive; and 2) mission-critical.
We are now beginning the transition to a sixth era – beyond ECM – in managing people, processes, and technology.
The combined impact of consumerisation, cloud and mobile, and the Internet of Things are rapidly signalling the end of the ECM Era as we know it. Organisations are struggling with best practices and norms as they make the transition to this sixth era dominated by Mobile, Analytics, Cloud, and Collaborative (MACC) technologies, and the solution providers that are part of this change are struggling with their identity as an industry. We at the cusp of a sixth era, still to be defined.
There are several key MACC-stack driven trends on the 2020 horizon – and remember, 2020 is just 5 years away. These include new approaches to privacy and security, ubiquitous broadband connectivity, bottom-up rather than top down innovation, lots more virtual and distributed work, a shortage of IT 'connective' and analytic skills, an OPEX vs. CAPEX procurement model, and increased regulation of the cloud by national governments.
As we prepare for these massive changes, we need to do so conscious that best practices in this emerging era do not yet exist. That’s what the industry will be addressing over the next 12 months – breaking down the issues we face into very practical and direct terms that can be understood by the business.